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#BTEditorial – The ‘Bull’ truce that protects us

by Stefon Jordan
4 min read

The gun-toting bad boys have been lying low since the historic truce engineered by a man whose name was once linked to the local underworld, a man once feared and respected by those who operated in that realm.

Winston Inston Bull Branch faced the consequences of his actions some two decades ago and has since demonstrated that people can atone for misdeeds.

We know that some fellow citizens can be unforgiving, and we are not attempting to paint Mr Branch as an idol. What we are doing is giving credit where it is due.

There has been documented evidence of Branch’s attempts to show his genuine interest in disadvantaged youth, especially those from depressed areas in The City. Newspaper reports from August 2017 documented Branch’s thoughts on how to reduce crime in The City when he addressed a meeting at Hilton Barbados calling for more resources to be channelled to youth-owned enterprises.

The fact that in 2023, this 64-year-old City resident was capable of getting more than 200 men from various rival blocks and communities, who have allegedly shot at and/or killed opposing members, to meet in the dead of night and hammer out a peace deal, is simply remarkable.

Those Barbadians who do not operate in these counter culture circles may find it extremely difficult to embrace the thought of a meeting of warring gang members.

The reality is that Mr Branch has accomplished what the Barbados Police Service, the Attorney General’s Office, local religious groups, political leaders, a long list of advocacy groups, pundits, and others, could not achieve.

Outside of the few exceptions in recent days, Barbadians have enjoyed one of the longest periods of relative peace from serious gun crimes in recent years.

The island has not been crime-free since February; however, the spate of near nightly shooting incidents and frequent gun deaths has abated to the point where there has been a return to the normal, quiet Barbadian lifestyle.

We juxtapose this lull in serious crime, for which we are extremely grateful, to what has occurred in Jamaica, for example.

We do not have a full picture of that island’s handling of its crime situation. What we have seen though is the heavy hand of the United States State Department, slapping Jamaica with a Level Three Travel Advisory on May 10.

“Reconsider travel to Jamaica due to crime,” the statement read. It added: “United States government personnel are prohibited from travelling to many areas due to increased risk. . . .  Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.

“Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted to a conclusive sentence.”

The above is damning and damaging to the CARICOM nation’s economy and the wellbeing of its citizens because of the critical role that tourism plays. Added to that, the bulk of Jamaica’s tourists come from the United States.

How justified the Americans are in issuing this travel warning is debatable. The impact of such an advisory, however, is not ambiguous.

In Barbados, we cannot feel secure in the belief that such a travel advisory would never be assigned to our nation.

As was demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic when the hospitality sector was severely disrupted, it caused a near implosion of our economy.

The United States has every right, as do we, to ensure that citizens who travel outside the jurisdiction for whatever reason, are safe.

If there is a clear and present danger, a country is duty bound to inform its citizens.

This brings us back to the truce brokered by Mr Branch, a resident of Chapman Lane, The City. The police would like to take credit for the relative peace we are enjoying at the moment, so would the Attorney General’s Office, so would the church, youth groups and advocates, and the government.

Yes, they all play their role in maintaining societal harmony, however, it is a most unlikely citizen – a man from the place we would regard as the underbelly, who has helped to stop the bloodletting, the increasing fear and anxiety of citizens, and provided respite for the Government.

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